Distributed denial-of-service mitigation and infrastructure provider Cloudflare kicked off the new year with the acquisition of a browser security firm and the launch of a new security service that includes a combination of identity and access management, endpoint protection, and Internet filtering.
Cloudflare today announced that it has acquired browser-isolation technology vendor S2 Systems Corp., whose product runs browser code in the cloud as a way to protect endpoints from Web-borne threats. Cloudflare also rolled out Cloudflare for Teams, a combination of two products that underscores the company's deeper dive into security services. The S2 buy and new security rollout come just a few months after Cloudflare's initial public offering in September of last year.
Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, says the new Teams services use the same technology that the company built for its own internal Internet proxy-style infrastructure. "We now can talk to largely the same [Cloudflare] customers and say, 'you need the network for infrastructure but also for your teams,'" Prince says.
Cloudflare now offers a "giant network proxy that's highly programmable," he explains, and supports its customers' mobile and decentralized employee bases. Teams is made up of two main services, Cloudflare Access and Cloudflare Gateway, both of which will be available midyear.
The updated Cloudflare Access service, which was first released in 2018, mirrors the emerging "zero-trust" approach, according to the company. Zero trust basically considers users and devices untrusted until they undergo more scrutinized authentication, user monitoring, and endpoint protection. Cloudflare has partnered with identity vendors Okta, OneLogin, and Ping Identity as well as endpoint security firms Malwarebytes, Tanium, and VMware Carbon Black for Cloudflare Access.
Prince says Access replaces corporate virtual private network (VPN) equipment, providing an alternative to slow and often unreliable VPN systems. "Cloudflare Access is [akin to] a bouncer that looks at the user's ID, checks that the device is up to date," and determines if the user gets access, Prince says.
The new Cloudflare Gateway piece of Teams is a combination of the company's existing DNS-based filtering traffic function as well as cloud partners Cloudgenix for securing traffic to the Internet, Ciphercloud for securing cloud-based applications, and S2's browser isolation technology. According to Cloudflare, the company blocks on average of 72 billion threats each day from its customers' Internet traffic. Cloudflare Teams also offers Splunk, Datadog, and Sumo Logic, dashboards for managing network security.
Prince says the new Teams service places the company squarely against firewall and VPN hardware vendors, including Palo Alto Networks, Check Point, and FireEye, as well as cloud security provider Zscaler, for instance. He points out that with Teams, his company also now competes with more Cisco network security products. "We've always competed against Cisco. What's different now there is we are competing against a broader set of the Cisco catalog," he says.
Many corporate VPN products have suffered from performance and security problems. Both the NSA and the US Department of Homeland Security last year issued advisories on discovered VPN vulnerabilities and warned about nation-state threat groups exploiting them. Most recently, VPN provider Pulse Secure yesterday told customers to immediately apply a security patch it had released last April for a critical, remotely executable flaw in some versions of its VPN products, after reports of ransomware attacks being levied via the flaw, CVE-2019-1150.
"There's an opportunity for Cloudflare to come along and to essentially rethink" the VPN experience performance-wise, notes Steve O'Grady, principal analyst with Redmonk. Organizations are increasingly more comfortable outsourcing services to the cloud than before, he notes, because they see it as stronger security than they can provide.
Either way, Cloudflare is expanding beyond its famed DDoS mitigation service.
"The net for me is essentially that Cloudflare has grown up as an infrastructure-centric player — providing a variety of services from some sort of base CDN [content delivery network] to more sophisticated DDoS prevention and mitigation, and so on," O'Grady says.
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